Throughout the year I hear things from friends, family and clients such as “I eat so healthy, but I am not losing weight”, or “I only had one cheat meal and I am not seeing results” and, “I train so hard, but my body isn’t changing”. In this blog, I want to put some focus on to why this may be and shed some light on some potential factors that may be inhibiting your progress that you aren’t aware of.
If you believe you are doing everything right and you still aren’t getting the results you seek, the fact of the matter is, if you aren’t losing body fat, you aren’t in a calorie deficit. The reason you’re struggling, whether you know it or not, is that you are ingesting too many calories and expending too little of them.
There are a whole host of reasons as to why you may not be in a true deficit and I am going to explain them below. I have broken these up in to three categories; diet, training and recovery.
This is most likely going to be your biggest culprit as there are so many facets that come into play here, the obvious cause being that you aren’t actually in a deficit.
So here are some ways you might be hindering your progress:
- Not tracking (your calories) at all or not tracking properly. Tracking isn’t necessary, but it certainly helps, especially if you are a beginner and you don’t have solid knowledge on the calories or macronutrient profiles in different foods. By not tracking your food, you have no idea whether or not you are over eating. Tracking incorrectly via reading labels incorrectly, selecting the wrong brand or type of food and many other reasons will also mean you could be surpassing your macros and calories.
- Eye balling portions or measuring volume rather than scale weight of food. There can be a 200 hundred calorie difference between a weighed portion of nut butter or Nutella than an eyeballed tablespoon. Two of those a day could mean a surplus of 400 calories, thus potentially taking you out of your deficit. Now amplify this with multiple different foods throughout your day... This is why it is so important to weigh your food for efficient progress.
- The point above ties nicely in to this one, underestimating portion sizes. When you are tracking, say you went out to eat at a restaurant and you tracked a 100g steak, but what you really ate was a 250g steak - the difference here could be your daily deficit. You need to be accurate.
- Eating out too often is another factor that can hinder progress. Restaurants are notorious for cooking in high calorie oils (which we often forget to track), serving large portion sizes, serving high calorie condiments and tempting us to eat the slice of cheesecake that wasn’t on the meal plan. If you choose to eat out, eat as simple as possible; grilled protein with steamed veggies and salad. Make sure you track the oil that the protein will be cooked in - even if you "guesstimate".
- Speaking of eating out, if you have weekend or night time binges or ridiculous cheat meals, you are completely negating all of the hard work you have put in during the week. If your weekly deficit is 3500 calories to help you drop body fat and you decide to finish a tub of Ben and Jerry’s, with a few Oreos and a burger and fries, that’s your 3500 calorie deficit gone. Be mindful on this. Consistency is key, if you are serious about fat loss, I highly suggest tracking treat meals.
- Thinking health foods are free foods. Unfortunately, although natures foods are nutritionally dense, they can be calorie dense as well. 2 handfuls of nuts can be 1000 or more calories, a raw dessert can have upwards of 500 calories, dried fruits and smoothies can be extremely high calorie too, which why tracking is so imperative; it creates consciousness.
- Mindless eating and picking at food. Just because you forgot about the 2 squares of chocolate you had, and the bite of your boyfriend’s pizza doesn’t mean your body did. Mindlessly picking at food and taking random bites of food throughout the day can negate your deficit.
- You’re drinking your calories. This is a huge one, especially during this time of year. That gingerbread latte from Starbucks you had on the way to work just cost you 500 calories. Liquid calories count. Always opt for low calorie drinks or water to save on calories or factor in your favourite drinks into your macros for the day. I suggest an Iced Americano with calorie free sweetener!
There are three factors that come in to play here:
- You aren’t training hard enough
- You aren’t consistent enough with your workouts
- You don’t move outside of the gym
People greatly overestimate their calorie expenditure. I hate to break it to you, but if you aren’t seriously pushing in the gym and progressing (whether that’s with weights, reps or time, or if you are just dawdling around), you aren’t going to be burning calories or in a position to change body composition.
In the same sense, if you are inconsistent with your workouts how do you expect to see progress? You don’t need to be in the gym all day every day, 3-5 times a week is enough for most people as long as you are really working. You can’t train hard for a week and then not train at all for two and expect to see results. Movement burns calories, the more you move the greater chance there is for a deficit.
This also relates to NEAT (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) levels. We burn most of our calories throughout the day, not in the gym. A one hour workout is just 4% of your day - what about the rest of the day? If you aim to burn more calories and create a bigger deficit, then you need to be active throughout your day; take the stairs, stand instead of sit, park further away, cook, clean, garden, go for a swim, play with children or your pet... The list is endless, just don’t be a couch potato.
Recovery and Hormones
High levels of stress and poor sleep habits directly effect fat loss. Both of these make you tired, alter hunger and satiety hormones as well as creating insulin and estrogen surges. Essentially, in simple terms, what this leads too is no desire to move and a huge desire to eat, and when I say eat I mean cookies and ice cream. Not only this, but you will have a greater propensity to store fat with your hormones being disrupted and the lack of movement.
Prioritise self-care, sleep and stress reduction, these three things do not get nearly enough credit when it comes to fat loss.
The major key to fat loss will always be a calorie deficit and you can obtain this by calories alone or combining training and calorie consumption. Try being as accurate as possible for two weeks and see what results occur after the fortnight. If you have lost weight, it is a clear indicator you were in a deficit, if nothing changed you’re hitting maintenance calories and if the scales when up, you’re still eating at a surplus. For these reasons the best thing you can do for yourself is to ensure you have the correct calorie and macro targets for you personally.
If it all seems too overwhelming and you aren't sure where to start - you should join my FitQueen Challenge. With my 6 Week Challenge, you'll submit a Questionnaire where I get to know you, your body type & goals. From that, I formulate a personalized Meal Plan specifically for you - so you know exactly what you need to eat and what to do in the gym to see SERIOUS RESULTS.
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